The Trinidad and Tobago Red Force will be without a couple of key players but newly-appointed skipper Darren Bravo is optimistic that they can still start the season on a positive note when they take on the Jamaica Scorpions in their opening match of the Regional Four-Day championship, bowling off from 10 a.m. today, at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, in Tarouba.
Bravo takes charge of the Red Force team for the season and has recognised the difficulty of the task, especially with former skipper and one of the team’s top batsmen in the past two seasons, Denesh Ramdin, unavailable for the first matches due to suspension.
Another key batsman, Jason Mohammed, will also sit out the season opener due to injury, while the Red Force’s top fast-bowler last season, Anderson Phillip, will be out for another month as he recovers from injuries sustained in the Super50 championship.
Veteran leg-spinner Imran Khan was also left out of the final 13-man squad for the first game, with batsman Isaiah Rajah making the cut instead. The change means that Yannic Cariah, a part-time leg-spinner in the set-up, could be called upon to do a lot more bowling in Khan’s absence.
Despite training with the team since the Super50 in November last year, Bryan Charles is also unlikely to start the season today after only playing one three-day trial match last weekend. Even with those players out, Bravo believes the Red Force can come out ahead of the Scorpions in the opening match.
“At the end of the day, it is bat versus ball and I think as long we go out there and play all facets of the game with distinction, I think we will do well,” he told the media in his first interview after being confirmed as captain on Tuesday.
“Obviously, it is the first game of the season, so we have to see how things go. We have to take it one ball at a time, one wicket at a time and, as long as the guys gel nicely together and we communicate, I don’t see any reason why we can’t start off this season on a good note,” Bravo reasoned, as the players trained at the National Cricket Centre in Balmain, Couva.
Asked about going into the match without Mohammed and Khan, who have been described by head coach Mervyn Dillon as his “trump cards”, Bravo was still optimistic.
“Jason is one of the most senior guys in Trinidad and Tobago cricket and he is definitely going to be missed but, having said that, it is an opportunity for another youngster to come in and grab the opportunity with both hands. I am sure, whichever player we select and whichever team we select, they are going to go out there and do their best for Trinidad and Tobago,” he added.
As for what he would like to see from his players this season, Bravo spoke about putting a high price on their wickets, taking pride in representing T&T and taking catches when they come. The Red Force have had some issues with their catching over the last two seasons but Bravo insisted that they have been working on the problem areas.
“My thing is just for them to try and concentrate for long periods and actually put a high price on their wickets and don’t give it away when they get into the 30s and 40s, and just try to be hungry for success,” said Bravo.
Asked about the team’s catching issues, Bravo was candid, saying: “As we all know, catches win matches and I myself put down an important catch in the semi-final (of the Super50) as well, but the guys have been putting in the work. “At the end of the day, we have to try our best to have a great fielding attitude out in the middle and I don’t see any reason why we can’t improve as a fielding unit.
“We just have to go out there and enjoy the atmosphere as much as possible and you actually have to want the ball to come your way and be ready. We will see how things go but the guys have been working and it is just a matter of improving,” he noted.
The 30-year-old Bravo also wants to lead from the front with the bat and is ready to take on that responsibility for the Red Force.
“I am in a good space mentally and I have been putting in a lot of work. I actually built my own cricketing net at home and have a ball machine and stuff, so I have been putting in the work and I will be trying to go out there and lead from the front as much as possible, and the guys always support me and I support the guys as well,” he pointed out.
“I am sure as long as I go out there and spend time in the middle and give myself a good chance, I don’t see any reason why I can’t perform,” he concluded.
RED FORCE (from): Darren Bravo (captain), Jeremy Solozano, Kyle Hope, Isaiah Rajah, Joshua Da Silva, Khesan Yannick Ottley (vice-captain), Yannic Cariah, Akeal Hosein, Terrance Hinds, Uthman Muhammad, Odean Smith, Bryan Charles, Keagan Simmons. Mervyn Dillon (coach), David Furlonge (manager), Lyndon Knights (Physiotherapist).
SCORPIONS (from): John Campbell, Alwyn Williams, Jermaine Blackwood, Assad Fudadin, Nkrumah Bonner, Rovman Powell, Denis Smith, Aldaine Thomas, Dennis Bulli, Nicholson Gordon, Derval Green, Patrick Harty, Marquino Mindley.
Today’s other matches:
Hurricanes vs Jaguars – Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, Antigua (2 pm daily)
Volcanoes vs Pride – Arnos Vale Cricket Ground, St. Vincent